2016 Best EMBAs: Isabel Lowell, Emory University (Goizueta)

Isabell Lowell Emory

Isabel Lowell, MD

Emory University, Goizueta Business School        

“I knew I wanted to go to business school when I realized that the field of medicine is run like a business in the U.S. Gone are the days when a physician can ignore the financial and strategic aspects of medicine. Hospitals and clinics are overseen by the best and brightest MBAs, and I want a seat at the table.” 

Age: 36

Location: Atlanta, GA

Family Members: Emily Walker (wife)

Undergraduate School and Degree: Williams College (BA); University of Connecticut School of Medicine (MD)

Where are you currently working? Emory University, assistant professor of medicine; assistant program director of Emory Family Medicine

Extracurricular Activities, Community Work, and Leadership Roles:

Community Work: Board member, Transgender Health and Education Alliance

Extracurricular Activities:

  • Rowing: All-American athlete, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002; 100 Kilometer Ergometer challenge, 11.5 hours, 2000, 2001
  • Distance running: Boston Marathon, 1998, 2011, 2012; New York Marathon, 1998, 1999, 2004 (top 100); Florence, Italy Marathon, 2000; Appalachian Mountain Club Hut Traverse (56 miles), 2001; Philadelphia Marathon, 2001; Narragansett Half Ironman, 2001; Cape Cod Marathon, 2002; Burlington Marathon, 2006; Skate-a-thon (84 miles, current record holder) 2005; Hartford Marathon, 2007, twice in one day (52 miles); Hartford Marathon, 2008, 2009; Pemigewasset Wilderness Loop (32 miles), 2009; Green Mountain Relay, 2010; Seacoast Century Ride, 2010; New Hampshire Marathon, 2010 & 2011; Rhode Island 6-Hour Ultramarathon, 2010 (3rd place); Lowell Marathon, 2011; JFK 50 Mile Ultramarathon, 2011; Wakefield 12-Hour Ultra (62 miles) 2012 (1st place); Coastal 50K Ultramarathon, 2012; NE Challenge: 5 Marathons in 5 days in 5 states, 2013 (1st place all races); Harbison 50K Ultramarathon, 2014 (5th place); Publix Marathon, 2014; Black Toe 12-hour Ultramarathon, 2015 (4th place); Coyote Ridge 50K Ultramarathon, 2015 (1st place)

Recent Awards: AFMRD/NAPCRG/CFPC Family Medicine Resident Award for Scholarship (2012); Outstanding Teaching Resident Award (2013); STFM 2013 Resident Teacher Award (2013); Teaching Award for Excellence in Inpatient Faculty Teaching (2014); Teaching Award for Excellence in Advising Family Medicine Residents (2014); Teaching Award for Excellence in Inpatient Faculty Teaching (2015); Teaching Award for Excellence in Advising Family Medicine Residents (2015); Dean’s List, Goizueta Business School (2015); Honor Council Award for Promoting Diversity, Goizueta Business School (2015); “Hidden Gem” Award for Leadership and Patient Advocacy (2015)

Leadership: Assistant program director, Emory Family Medicine Residency (2013-present); Patient-Centered Medical Home, team leader (led clinical team to achieve Level 3 NCQA Medical Home recognition); chief resident, Greater Lawrence Family Medicine Residency, 2012-2013

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? Diversity Award. Without realizing it, I had a unique opportunity to promote diversity among our MBA class by speaking about the work I am doing on behalf of the Transgender community in Atlanta and the Southeast region. A conversation was started among the class encouraging openness and facilitating an environment in which classmates felt safe coming out as themselves.

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? I started a clinic for transgender patients in Atlanta during business school. Patients now travel to see me from Alabama, Tennessee, North Carolina, and Florida. Transgender people face tremendous discrimination across the country, especially in the South, and many doctors still refuse even basic primary care to these patients. Because of the lack of acceptance, even among physicians, patients are at high risk for preventable diseases, do not get the care they need, and thus have the highest suicide attempt rate of any population at 44%. This discrimination from my own profession and the gaps in basic care gall me. My passion for equality and caring for the underserved led me to shift my practice toward promoting awareness and educating residents and colleagues about transgender medicine. I have lectured throughout the region on hormone therapy and am working to change the laws surrounding health care coverage for transgender patients. Business school has given me the confidence to set big, audacious goals — I never envisioned becoming a regional medical expert and human rights spokesperson. I hope to make Emory the destination for transgender care in the Southeast and improve care and education across the country. The opportunity to do what I believe is important, with the support of classmates and professors, has been life changing.

Favorite MBA Courses? Economics, Data and Decision Analytics, Finance, Strategic Cost Management.

Why did you choose this executive MBA program? Program reputation, opportunity to attend school where I am employed.

What did you enjoy most about business school? Getting to know and learning from incredibly accomplished classmates from many different backgrounds, and access to professors who have challenged me to think in new ways.

What is the biggest lesson you gained from business school? Don’t be afraid to think big, and ask classmates and colleagues for advice.

What was the most surprising thing about business school? How much fun it has been! Each class has been an exciting new adventure, and I looked forward to returning to school after every break.

What was the hardest part of business school? Not always having as much time as I would like to learn the material in more depth and expand on classwork in particularly interesting subjects.

What is your best advice for juggling work, family, and education? Take advantage of the short moments in between other things — divide up the work into the smallest segments possible, then use every moment to complete the pieces. For example, I listen to the readings using an iPhone app while running, cycling, or commuting to work. I have a “bike desk” at home and at work, with a desk attached to a spinning bike where I read, watch class videos, and write papers. I also go running at lunchtime.

What’s your best advice to an applicant to your executive MBA program? Go for it — you won’t regret it!

“I knew I wanted to go to business school when …” I realized that the field of medicine is run like a business in the U.S. Gone are the days when a physician can ignore the financial and strategic aspects of medicine. Hospitals and clinics are overseen by the best and brightest MBAs, and I want a seat at the table.

If I hadn’t gone to business school, I would be …” Less confident, less creative, and have a much smaller network. I’ve gained lifelong colleagues and friends, new ways of thinking, and invaluable learning and insights about myself and my career. Business school gave me a wide-open sense of possibility, and I have much bigger goals and aspirations than I would have imagined prior to coming to Goizueta.

What are your long-term professional goals?

  • Become the medical director of the premier destination for transgender patients across the Southeastern United States;
  • Advocate on behalf of underserved and underrepresented patients, change the medical system to provide care to all who need it;
  • Join the administrative team in a hospital or clinic system to improve access and efficiency, and/or consult with hospital systems.

Who would you most want to thank for your success? My mother, who passed away shortly before I started business school. She was an inspiration to me my whole life, showing that one should never be limited by others. As one of the only women at a prominent Boston law firm in the 1980s, she worked to prove herself every day among her male colleagues. She persevered against discrimination and prejudice herself, and advocated for the civil rights of others as a strong supporter of racial equality and gay and lesbian rights. My mother set an example of achievement in spite of adversity, and taught me to work for what I feel is important, no matter what other people may think.

Fun fact about yourself: I have synesthesia, a neurological phenomenon in which one sensory pathway triggers a different cognitive experience. For me, this manifests as each number and letter having an associated color. For example, to me the letter “A” appears green, “B” is black, the number “1” is white, and “2” is blue, and so on. Also, my family had a pet kangaroo growing up.

Favorite book: The Hours, by Michael Cunningham, or The World Until Yesterday, by Jared Diamond

Favorite movie: Winged Migration

Favorite musical performer: Favorite composer: Gustav Mahler; favorite contemporary artists: Aretha Franklin, Bon Iver

Favorite television show: “Homeland”

Favorite vacation spot: San Francisco

Hobbies? Running, cycling, speed skating, going to the symphony

What made Isabel such an invaluable addition to the class of 2016?

“In my almost twenty-five years of teaching at Wharton (as a doctoral student), Purdue, and Emory, I have taught a lot of bright, motivated, capable students who have gone on to very successful careers. Maybe three or four times, I’ve had a student who is so passionate about an issue or problem so big that it could truly impact society, possesses the natural charisma and leadership skills to motivate others to buy into their passion, and is so persistent to make it succeed, that you know business training could be the catalyst to help a good idea become something great in practice. Izzy is one of these people.

“Izzy is a clinical physician in family medicine who has been recognized multiple times for her work with patients and for training residents. She came to our executive MBA program with a passion to make a difference in the emerging area of transgender medicine.

“The pioneers of business education, such as Joseph Wharton, intended it to be a force for social good. In many ways, the future of executive education relies on our industry returning to its roots. Izzy is out in front in terms of these roots. She’s on her way to making a major social contribution to society through business, something that wouldn’t be so possible without her executive MBA training.

“Her passion aside, Izzy is an outstanding (top of the class) student who make others around her better. Students seek her out. She makes difficult concepts accessible. She has the patience of Job with her classmates. Her passion for learning is highly contagious. Her attention to detail is second to none. In closing, no one is more deserving of this recognition than Izzy. I give her my highest recommendation.”

Douglas Bowman

Senior Associate Dean for Working Professionals Programs

Professor of Marketing; McGreevy Term Chair

Co-Director, Emory Marketing Analytics Center

Emory University’s Goizueta Business School


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